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20 June 2017

Girl in the trees: My first hammock camp

By Jocasta

Before I joined Team DD back in 2015, hammocks weren’t really what I associated with camping - to me they were always whimsical woven things you’d lounge in at a paradise resort. Nowadays, whenever I tell folk about hammock camping, I still feel a little grin rise whenever I see the bemusement find their faces. “...You can do that?!”

“Yep - and why not, indeed?” I’d always reply. You can be anyone of any age or experience level, and hammock-camp anywhere. Unlike tent camping you don’t need to find flat ground, so it adds a ton of options. Add a tarp and you are safe from the elements, yet entirely immersed in your surroundings. Importantly, it’s easy! (As you can see, it’s really not been difficult for me to sell).

I'm biased I guess, but if anyone reading this is pondering whether or not to give hammocking a try, then perhaps you might get some insight from my first experience!

Now I've come a long way since, but this was all totally new and I wasn't ever a Scout, or even an avid camper. Still, if I do camp then wild camping really is my favourite way to go. I was buzzing to go on my first overnighter, so I thought I’d take myself and a dear friend along for a hammock camp that summer, up in Scotland’s spectacular Cairngorms National Park.

Glammocking?

...Okay, so we aren’t talking heated towels or a concierge service here, but hammocking needn’t be devoid of luxury! Neither my camping buddy nor I would claim to be hardened survivalists; we enjoy our creature comforts, and we’re quite sure many more of you do, too. So we were interested to know how we could put our own stamp on our camp...

Essential gear:

  • Hammock and tarp (we chose Frontline Hammocks modified with Complete Whoopie Suspension Systems, and a SuperLight Tarp each)
  • 10m of cord each for tarp ridgelines
  • Hammock insulation: either an Underblanket OR an Inflatable Mat
  • Sleeping bag
  • Ground sheet to sit on (also good for keeping gear dry. Try the DD Magic Carpet)
  • Food of choice & a few litres of drinking water (or a purifier, if you want to keep the pack weight down)

Personal effects:

  • Waterproof jackets and decent walking footwear
  • Wet wipes, tissues and hand sanitizer
  • Bug repellent. Because it’s Scotland.
  • Head torch. HEAD TORCH. < I don’t think I mentioned, but, head torch.

Extras & little luxuries:

  • Trangia stove with methylated spirit & matches to light it - along with cooking tins, cutlery, plates
  • Kelly Kettle
  • Bluetooth-enabled speaker for tunes on the trail
  • Powerpack to charge electronics in the wilderness
  • A book or magazine to read before going to sleep
  • Teas and hot drink sachets of all flavours. Or a few cans of the bubbly stuff, depending on the kind of night you’re planning.
  • Thermal Water Bottle - keeps your tea warm!
  • Hammock Beer Holder. Well, why not.

As for our campsite, we chose a tranquil loch a few miles from Aviemore. I’d recce’d this place a few weeks earlier, and picked it because the trees were all perfect distances apart - between 3m-5m. We weren't allowed to make campfires as it was on an estate, so we opted for the stove instead (though honestly, I'd really have preferred a traditional fire... I'm not half bad at making one)!

We had everything set up within minutes. Hanging up a hammock had to be the most intuitive process I’d encountered when camping - I’d never really been good at pitching tents, so you can imagine my delight when I found all I needed to do was wrap cord around a pair of trees.

I wouldn't have said our setups were particularly "tidy" - there was a sad sort of sag in our tarps - but it held up all night so we must've done something right!

Neither of us were particularly keen on the idea of hunting down a squirrel for breakfast, so we’d stopped by a store to get our food before the trip. Before long we were cooking chilli con carne under a Superlight Tarp with the sunlight streaming through the grey, welcoming in a balmy and beautiful evening. We even got a quick wild swim in (though that water was fresh n’ brisk from the mountains, so we didn’t stay in for long)!

I guess if you wanted to ramp up the luxury factor, you could even take a coffee-maker or some marshmallows for toasting.

In terms of the gear, I personally would opt for the Frontline Hammock every time - it may not be the lightest model, but it’s such a great all-rounder and it’s so simple to rig up, so it’s ideal for beginners. I loved the Superlight tarp, though, for its compactness. Me and my pal are both under 5’3 so we were grateful for it having cut a lot of weight and bulk from our backpacks.

The novelty and excitement of the experience made it a rather unforgettable night’s camp. Imagine being gently swayed to sleep, nestled in your very own little pod, watching the light dim around you. The air you breathe is fresh, straight from the source.

All I could hear was the Tarp above me fluttering in the breeze, the wildlife stirring. For a while I forgot there was anything outwith this miniature world we were in.

...I did however awaken to sharp popping sounds - cue panic! Was that my suspension giving way? Was there someone creeping around?! (False alarm: some red squirrel had been feasting on pine cones above me and the debris was falling on my tarp. Little guy was lucky I didn’t eat him for breakfast after all).

Everyone’s camping preferences are different, but these are things that definitely made my trip easier:

  • Fitting my hammock with the Whoopie Suspension System. These lightweight slings replace the regular webbing and it means you can adjust the hammock while it’s suspended, without having to untie any knots. The tree huggers are also a bit more kind to the bark.
  • Mini karabiners. Loads of them. They are useful for approximately everything.

Some more handy hammocking knowledge we gained from our camp:

  • Hammocks are great for minimising impact on your shoulders or joints - beats waking up with a sore neck from sleeping on the floor!
  • Pelting with rain when you arrive at your site? Suspend your tarp first, to protect you and your gear while you set up the rest. You may also want to opt for a Hammock Sleeve - this can be fitted over your hammock before you pack it up, so it’s protected from the rain if you have to leave it in the open.
  • Always try and dry your hammock and tarp out before storing them away, including the cordage - it’ll preserve the life of the material.
  • Underblankets are a really smart idea. But we didn't take any. It may have been the middle of summer, but the nights are chilly here, and I would've been grateful for the extra warmth underneath me. I don't hold my temperature well because I'm little, so if you're wondering whether you should take one, that might be a deciding factor for all you petite folk out there!
  • Getting up when ‘nature calls’ is, admittedly, a bit of a drag. Especially since that hammock is so darn comfy...

How did your first hammock camp go? Tell us or share your experiences on Facebook or Instagram!


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About the writer

Jocasta

DD's former content writer, Jocasta is never far from a beach, the woods or a set of mountains. When she's not illustrating or writing, she's exploring Scotland and spotting wildlife.



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